This piece is striking for its elegant form and detailed decoration of palmettes on a stippled ground, and ranks amongst the best surviving examples of Tang period rhytons. A brown-glazed dragon-shaped rhyton of this form, but with somewhat less complex decoration on the body, from the Schiller Collection in the City Art Gallery, Bristol, was included in the exhibition The Arts of the T’ang Dynasty
, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, 1957, cat. no. 184; and a green-glazed example lacking the foliate scroll and with a pearl in its mouth, illustrated in Sekai tōji zenshu/ Catalogue of World Ceramics
, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 129, sold twice in our London rooms, 7th April 1981, lot 140, and again, 10th June 1986, lot 14. Compare also rhytons in the form of ducks, such as one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum. Ceramics
, vol. 5, Sui (581-618), Tang (618-907) and Five Dynasties (907-960) (II)
, Beijing, 2013, pl. 295; another published in The Charles B. Hoyt Collection in the Museum of Fine Arts
, vol. 1, Boston, 1964, pl. 94; a third, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Arts of the T’ang Dynasty
, London, 1955, cat. no. 146, and sold in our London rooms, 14th July 1970, lot 9; and a further example, sold in our London rooms, 21st June 1983, lot 95.
The rhyton is a drinking vessel originally made from ox or buffalo horn, which was introduced into China through Central and Western Asia, where it was made in silver and precious stones. Rhytons appeared in China from as early as the Han dynasty, and were made in a variety of materials, including pottery, glass and silver. While a number of surviving rhytons from the Tang period, such as the white-glazed example in the British Museum, London, illustrated in Margaret Medley, T’ang Pottery & Porcelain
, London, 1981, pl. 4, were clearly modelled after Persian silver originals, the present example has incorporated Chinese elements, such as its dragon shape.